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An Affirmation of Ando

Those familiar with me know my typical stance on New Year’s Resolutions (I don’t make them), but if you’ve known me and been following anything I’ve said over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed me struggling over and over with some common themes. And while we’re assuming that you, my hypothetical reader, know me that well, you also know that I am far from being a very private person. I am not afraid or ashamed to talk about subjects that others may consider too personal or embarrassing to bring up outside of in-person among friends. And if you are that private, then more power to you. I can understand that. But I’m frankly a lot more open about things.

So what you’re about to read is a little prelude to what will kick off (I hope) a 2015 I can actually look back on and be proud of. And if you don’t care about the ins and outs of my personal life and mental issues, then by all means, stop reading right here. I will not take offence. And you also should stop if you’re put off by really long posts, because I can just feel a wall of text coming. You have been warned.

So, what exactly am I going to do in 2015 that makes me feel like for the first time in a while, I’ll be happy with how the year went? I’m going to actually take care of myself for once. No, I don’t mean just physically, although obviously that is a component. But I’m going to legitimately do things that are good for Ando.

Believe it or not, that’s been a massive struggle for me. This brings me to my first point, and that is mental health. Oh sure, I can be a happy enough guy, and I don’t want anyone thinking they should fear for my safety. But while not severe or suicidal, I have been facing down depression in 2014, far more than any other year of my life. I think I’ve always had the capacity for depression, but I know I don’t have it as severely as many other people. I am not suicidal, I do not self-harm or cut myself, I don’t sink into misery and wish I didn’t exist, and so on. For me, I have come to realize, my depression tends to end up as more triggered sadness and apathy. I end up just finding myself totally unmotivated to do anything I normally would say I “love” (such as pursue my creative outlets like music, writing, etc), and instead apathetically wish to sit and watch TV or play video games because it’s easy and doesn’t take effort.

And truly, that apathy is what became my red flag. After years upon years of having what I only thought of as “funks” and dismissed as not being serious enough to worry about, I finally recognized that I was getting to a point where even my own sense of personal responsibility was taking a hit, when I would mess up on the job and simply shrug and not care, but just keep counting down the minutes until I get get free from work – which of course just meant escaping to mindless pursuits, never anything creative that would fulfil me.

And the thing that hit me like a ton of bricks was how finally admitting that maybe I was well and truly depressed made me also confront a mental issue that I’ve actively known about since childhood and openly admitted to, but always dismissed, and that is my almost nonexistent self-esteem. Now, this one’s been a tough nut to crack in myself, because on the one hand, it’s always been pretty evident to people who get to know me better than superficial hanging out that I’ve got self-esteem issues, because I am a champion at deflecting compliments. On the other hand, I do have a lot of friends, I have a very supportive core family unit, and I am happily married and have been for coming up on 7 years, so I face a lot of positivity, and one would think that would be enough for anyone to rise up above it.

But anyone who struggles with mental issues knows that it’s never as simple as that. The mind is an amazing thing, even more amazing in its capability to see only what it wants to see, and either ignore or rationalize or even find ways to discredit the rest. And so despite having people around me that love me and tell me so and PROVE it, my brain has always, *ALWAYS* found ways around that to continue to make me feel like I was worthless. Something goes wrong? Gotta be my fault. Someone doesn’t like me? Oh, well, must be something wrong with me that makes them feel that way. Somebody loves me? Well, they *have* to, they’re family, it doesn’t count. And so it goes. Every bit of self-worth and optimism is quickly smothered beneath a blanket of self-dismissal. I mean, I don’t *hate* myself, but I just have never really felt I was all that great. Which lies in stark contrast with the image many people probably see of this great AMAZING ANDO.

My friends, that is called a defense mechanism. When I was in college and was starting to find myself gathering some friends, the only way I found myself able to really enjoy that friendship in light of my lack of self-worth was to create the persona of THE AMAZING ANDO, a larger-than-life version of the only parts of me I could like, inflated with an incredibly large desire to be what people liked, in order to have that attention on myself. And it was both intoxicating and draining, because I loved it and yet wished the people who actually liked that person knew the *real* me and would actually *LIKE* the real me. But I was far too scared to bare that part of myself for fear of losing what little traction I had gained socially.

Anyway, my rambling retrospective aside, the point is that this is nothing new. But upon finally facing down my depression for what it was, I had no choice but to face down the self-worth problems as well, and so for the first time in my entire life, I admitted to myself (which is even more important than admitting it to anyone else) that I just am tired of these feelings and obviously am far better at hiding from the truth than I am doing something about them, and set up an appointment with a psychologist. And in our first session, I didn’t hold anything back. I laid every last thing out and finally said with honesty that I didn’t want any of it anymore. I think it was literally the first time in my life I’ve ever said I don’t want to feel like this anymore.

And what was startling was to hear my new therapist use the brutally honest language like “self-hostility” and “verbal abuse” (when describing my childhood bullying by schoolmates, which I had always dismissed since I never was beat up or hurt physically). It startled me and yet it felt good to finally hear it said, because too often I’d been able to downplay it all, and if anyone I loved who cared enough about me to try to help tried to go so far, I’d wave it off like it was no big deal. But obviously it was, and I’m finally doing something about it.

So mentally, I’m finally, *FINALLY* doing what I should have done years ago and taking care of myself. And if that were the only thing I was doing right as I head into 2015, I think I could be OK with it. But it’s not.

As many people have already seen on Facebook, I joined Weight Watchers back in October, because once again, for too long I’ve been able to look around and find at least another person or two who were more overweight than me and convince myself, “Eh, I’m not THAT fat, I’ll be OK.” Or maybe, “I’m only in a size 38 pants – it could be a lot worse.” And then I would keep eating too much and to absolutely nobody’s surprise, I maintained my overweight figure.

But after Katie Mae spent a year on the program and saw great results, and I saw other friends and family shedding pounds, I again was faced with the confrontation of my own image and realized that I couldn’t deal with it anymore, and jumped in. And it hasn’t been easy. I freaking love food and eating, and some of my favorite foods are what were keeping me nice and round. But litte by little, I’ve come to terms with portion sizes and better choices, and in 10 weeks I’ve lost 16 pounds, and am just about ready to finally go down a pants size for the first time since I was in college (when for some reason that I still can’t explain I dropped from a 40 to a 38). So with that commitment well in hand, I am looking forward to being a slimmer, healthier Ando in 2015.

So both physically and mentally, I am finally doing what is right for me, and believe me when I say it’s not only the first time almost ever in my life, it also…feels good. I mean, I guess that shouldn’t surprise anyone that taking care of oneself feels good, but when you don’t believe you’re worth the effort, it’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t need to waste time on stuff that doesn’t matter.

But in 2015, I will make myself believe that I matter. I will take care of my body and my mind. And it won’t be easy. I know I’ll have starts and stops, I’ll succeed and I’ll fail, I’ll do the right things and the wrong things. But I’m on the right path and I think this is the closest I’ve ever come to really figuring out who Ando Poore has the potential to be.

2 thoughts on “An Affirmation of Ando”

  1. Bro. I. Love. You. You remember how bad things were for me when we were younger, how different our lives were basically dragged me to my feet every day and kept me going. I suffered every day with depression, and my only weapon against it was my best friend Andy, not Ando. Maybe you never understood what you did for me, but plain and simple: you kept me alive. It wasn’t girlfriends, or sports, it was you. There’s no way to do enough for you to repay that.

    I told you in one of our FPS that one day things would get better for us. You’d have those things that eluded you in your youth, and as I watched my make friends and enter the dating scene, I thought, ‘I’m glad someone else sees the value in this man’. When you married Katie Mae, you wouldn’t know it, but I cried for about an hour being happy for you. So when I hear that you’re having trouble with depression, that strikes a chord with me.

    I’m going to share what I’ve learned, then I’ll leave this tl;dr comment (even though you love to read). Doctors and therapists are great for helping you work through things, but they can’t fix them. While this sounds obvious, you should know that I spent 3 years of my life trying to drink myself into a blackout and never wake up, I didn’t know that. When you work on this, use your family and friends and faith as rocks to stand on, so you don’t lose your footing. Talk to them about things that are happening, especially family. I didn’t have this. I don’t want you to end up alone on Christmas watching your holiday spirit swirl around in the glass in front of you. I don’t want you to end up like me. You’re my best friend.

    Even through all this time apart, you’re still the best friend I’ve got. If you need to call me, you’ve got my number. And just remember there are people out there who love you, more than friendship, and would do anything in their power for you. I’m one of them.

  2. God Bless you Ando and When I see you next time, I am going to give you a big hug~! I lost my brother to depression, I am glad you are doing something for yourself~!

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